When you get into modeling, you know that just like with any other job, there will be times when you have to do things you aren’t necessarily thrilled about or don’t want to do. For some models (especially new ones), the thought of turning down a paid booking is blasphemy.
But is it?
As models, from the beginning of our careers, it’s drilled into our heads to accept anything that comes our way and do whatever it takes to get the job done. While having a great work ethic is a great thing, we need to remember that we’re also human, with our own beliefs, morals, and something that we’re ok and not ok with doing. While you hustle day in and day out to get those paid bookings, sometimes situations arise where saying “no” is a much better move for you.
So, when is it best to decline a booking?
When it violates your beliefs or morals.
When it comes to your religious beliefs, cultural practices, or just moral boundaries you have set for yourself, you should never feel like you have to accept a booking for a job that has you push or cross those limits. Models may refuse to pose nude/implied or do ads for furs, alcohol, or cigarettes because it goes against their morals or religion. Others may decline doing any political ads or work with specific brands because they don’t want to be associated with a campaign they disagree with.
If the shoot requires you to do something you’re uncomfortable with or against, regardless of the pay, you must say no. Not only do you need to stand true to what you believe in and maintain your boundaries, but you also won’t be able to give 100% to the project if it’s not something you support or feel good about in your personal life.
You must be upfront with your agent from the beginning, and remind them when booking requests come through for things you’re uncomfortable with so that they can avoid submitting you for potential bookings that go against your principles. You never want to book the job and then tell your agent last minute that you decided not to do it or get on set and not fulfill your duties. I’ve been in a situation before where we were on a location shoot and had already completed hair and makeup and gotten dressed in our looks. When we arrived at the actual shooting location, one of the models said she couldn’t participate because it wasn’t aligned with what she believed in. While that is completely fine, and it’s good that she held her ground and didn’t do something she wasn’t comfortable doing, it affected the production side of the shoot, which is obviously something you never want to do.
If It Could Affect Future Bookings
Especially in the commercial modeling world, your previous jobs can significantly affect your future bookings. Even though it is a model’s job to transform into whatever character is needed for that particular project, models are often unfairly stereotyped by their previous work, even if it may be the exact opposite of who they are. What may have been a harmless bikini ad displayed in a men’s magazine can turn off clients booking models for a more family-oriented project. It can also work in reverse, where if most of your previous work has been family lifestyle ads, you may be passed over for edgier things. Some clients also have clauses in their contracts that prohibit models from working for a similar or competing company within a certain period of time, which can significantly impact the work you’re able to do. Casinos and lottery companies are stringent on this, so if you work for one company, you’re not able to even be considered for another competing company, sometimes for several years.
If The Photographer, Brand, or Production Team Has a Bad Reputation
If word has gotten out that a particular photographer or band has a history of mistreating or taking advantage of their models, it’s almost always best to decline jobs with them, even if they pay well. There is no money worth being belittled or possibly put into an unsafe situation on set.
If they have a reputation of underpaying or being late in paying their models, this is a huge reason not to work with them. It doesn’t matter how much the job offers to pay if you don’t see the check for several months or not at all.
When Your Gut Says No
If you have a booking and, for some reason, you just have a bad feeling about it, you should consider canceling it. If it was a booking through your agent, a simple phone call with them could help clear your doubt or confirm that your unease is justified and it’s better to decline the booking. Your off feeling might turn out to be nothing, but it might turn out to be something, too. It’s always better to trust your gut than to be put in a situation that makes you uncomfortable or could cause problems for you and your career down the road.